Today, Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, announced its sponsorship of Senate Bill 529, which aims to protect California tenants from retaliation by their landlord for organizing collectively. The bill would prevent evictions of tenants participating in a tenant association or rent strike.
Over half of California renters are cost-burdened, paying more than 30% of their income towards rent. Half a million California tenants face court eviction every year, and far more are displaced by rent increases and eviction notices. Homelessness has risen statewide by 15% since 2015. In the midst of an escalating housing affordability crisis, many tenants are afraid to assert their rights. Tenants who speak out about their housing conditions are vulnerable to retaliation and losing their homes.
Betty Gabaldon is one of these tenants. A single mother with two jobs who organized her building and neighborhood to fight substandard rental conditions, Betty was evicted from her home of 8 years in Concord, CA, and had to leave the city. “I was evicted simply because I worked to protect my family and my neighbors,” says Gabaldon. “Renters like me deserve the right to fight for safe, livable housing and not be afraid of retaliation from landlords.”
SB 529 is the product of collaboration between Tenants Together’s member organizations across the state and State Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), the bill’s author. Tenants who form associations against excessive rent hikes, poor living conditions, or harassment, are often met with retaliatory evictions.
“Every Californian has a right to a union at work and a union at home,” said Lupe Arreola, executive director of Tenants Together. “Tenant organizations are often the only thing standing between marginalized communities and displacement. We are grateful to have a labor champion like Senator Durazo advancing this bill.”